The Hollywood chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is known for getting involved in the movie business, frequently criticizing studios and filmmakers for slighting black talent or for stereotypical portrayals. But now the NAACP is jumping on the other side of an issue, launching a campaign to save "To Sleep With Anger" at the box office. The film, set in South Central Los Angeles and directed by black filmmaker Charles Burnett, picked up positive reviews but hasn't been doing much business -- and to the NAACP's dismay, it's doing worst in black neighborhoods. In Los Angeles, for instance, the movie earned only $809 in its first two days at a theater that draws a largely black audience, but made twice as much at theaters in two mostly white areas. And in New York, a Harlem theater pulled the movie after one week because of its disappointing business.
"Since we are the organization that for 23 years has been telling the major studios that there is profit to be made in quality-made films," said an NAACP statement, "we are making it our responsibility to prove that to the distributors of 'To Sleep With Anger.' " The NAACP has begun a word-of-mouth and letter-writing campaign to encourage black viewers, other NAACP chapters and various organizations to support the movie. But while the film's business did jump 389 percent last weekend over the previous one, much of that seems due to the fact it was playing in 450 percent more theaters -- and though business went up to $1,654 in the same L.A. theater where it had previously earned $809, box office take in a nearby white neighborhood jumped proportionately, to $2,765.
Ins and Outs
On the heels of the disappointing performance of "Texasville," director Peter Bogdanovich has been replaced at the helm of "Another You," a comedy that reunites Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. Tri-Star took the action over the weekend, reportedly because after six weeks of shooting the film was running up to 10 days behind schedule, and because the studio wasn't happy with the footage Bogdanovich was getting. (Earlier rumors, denied by the studio, said Wilder was unhappy with the director as well.) Maurice Phillips has been hired to finish the film; Phillips directed the black comedy "Enid Is Sleeping," released earlier this year to favorable reviews but not much business.
Box Office Horror
Late October usually sees the release of a few horror movies and some other films from which not much is expected -- and that's exactly what the recent crop of movies has delivered at the box office. Last weekend was particularly lackluster, with the widely panned "Graveyard Shift" taking the top spot on the box office charts not because it did especially well, but because "Sibling Rivalry," the only other new movie to open nationwide, did even more poorly, and because nearly every other film had its business drop dramatically.